By OSCAR PERRI
The wrath of Covid felt by many Alice Springs events in recent months didn’t make its way to Harts Range, with thousands camping out for the 74th picnic races.
Some racing, rodeo, and camp drafting enthusiasts travelled over a thousand kilometres for the event from stations all over the Territory, along with a fair showing of Alice Springs locals and interstate travellers keen for a unique Territorian experience.
Harts Range Amateur Race Club Secretary Jo Fogarty says the races are marked on the calendar at all the stations around Alice, but they never quite know how many people are going to turn up to the four day event.
“With the lack of events in town because of COVID and the lockdowns, I think everyone was keen to get out of town, so there’s a lot more people here than normal.
“We even ran out of programs for the events, and it’s been seriously busy for everyone working at the canteen.
“Having so many people here is a real success for us, it shows that people really want to come to this event, it means a lot to them.
“This is a special few days, especially for the people who come here from the stations who only get to see their friends a couple times a year.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to catch up and have fun together, and there’s certainly a couple of sore heads in the morning.”
The rodeo returned to much anticipation after being put on the shelf for last last year’s downsized races, the five dust raising rides each day were impossible to not be impressed by.
Also returning from a year off was the dance, with its strict dress code of a tie to be worn by all the men, though it was only able to host a limited capacity.
They have been lucky with their timing for the event to happen with the NT outbreak far enough in the rear view to not affect working bees or put a cap on the capacity of the campgrounds, though extensive work was needed to make sure the COVID plan was up to scratch.
“The good thing for us is that a lot of the people who put on the event actually live in town and in the bush nearby, and through the year everything is here and pretty much ready to go.”
The precautions were put to the test on Saturday when a series of hotspots were announced in Queensland, but Ms Fogarty says she was pleased that their check-in precautions held up, and were able to work with emergency services to quickly be sure that all was under control.
Between the races on the the first day, the crowd was kept entertained by a whip cracking competition between youngsters from the stations, judged by outgoing Mayor Damian Ryan.
The 13 year old Coldon Lorimer from Ooraminna Station Homestead, around 40km South of Alice Springs, was bumped up an age group into the 16 and over category but it didn’t stop him winning.
Coldon has been whip cracking for around five years, but hasn’t entered many competitions before, saying he “usually just does it for the cattle at home.
“It’s free, if you want to learn it you’ve just got to play around and practice, and you’ll get it eventually.”
He said the $100 prize money would be going to his dinner that night at the canteen, and the rest into savings.